Childhood Dementia

Although dementia is most often seen in adults, childhood dementia does occur. Infections and poisoning can lead to dementia in children as well as in adults. Also, some disorders can cause childhood dementia, such as Niemann-Pick disease, Batten disease, Lafora body disease, and other medical conditions.

Does Dementia Occur in Children?

While dementia most commonly affects adults, it can also occur in children. For example, infections and poisoning can lead to dementia in people of any age. In addition, some disorders normally unique to children can cause childhood dementia.
Conditions that can cause dementia in childhood include:
  • Niemann-Pick disease
  • Batten disease
  • Lafora body disease
  • Other medical conditions.

Childhood Dementia and Niemann-Pick Disease

Niemann-Pick disease is a group of inherited disorders that affect metabolism and are caused by specific genetic mutations. People with Niemann-Pick disease cannot properly metabolize cholesterol and other lipids. Therefore, excessive amounts of cholesterol accumulate in the liver and spleen and excessive amounts of other lipids accumulate in the brain.
Symptoms of Niemann-Pick disease may include:
  • Dementia
  • Confusion
  • Problems with learning and memory.
Niemann-Pick disease usually begins in young school-age children but it may also appear during teen years or early adulthood.

Batten Disease and Childhood Dementia

Batten disease is a fatal, hereditary disorder of the nervous system that begins in childhood. Symptoms of Batten disease are linked to a buildup of substances called lipopigments in the body's tissues. Early symptoms of Batten disease include:
  • Personality and behavior changes
  • Slow learning
  • Clumsiness
  • Stumbling.
Over time, children who are affected with Batten disease suffer:
  • Mental impairment
  • Seizures
  • Progressive loss of sight and motor skills.
Eventually, children with Batten disease will develop childhood dementia and become blind and bedridden. The disease is often fatal by the late teens or 20s.
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